Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale

Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale

Published July 9, 2019 – Lake Union Publishing

Book courtesy of the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  Lifestyle journalist Ella Skye remembers every celebrity she interviewed, every politician she charmed between the sheets, and every socialite who eyed her with envy. The chance meeting with her husband, Damien; their rapid free fall into love; and their low-key, intimate wedding are all locked in her memory. But what she can’t remember is the tragic car accident that ripped her unborn child from her. Ella can’t even recall being pregnant.

Hoping to find the memories of a lost pregnancy that’s left her husband devastated and their home empty, Ella begins delving into her past when she’s assigned an exclusive story about Nathan Donovan, a retired celebrity adventurer who seems to know more about her than she does him. To unravel the mystery of her selective memory loss, Ella follows Nathan from the snowcapped Sierra Nevada to the frozen slopes of southeast Alaska. There she discovers the people she trusts most aren’t the only ones keeping secrets from her—she’s hiding them from herself. Ella quickly learns that some truths are best left forgotten. (publisher)

My take:  So this is one of those books where I was glad I didn’t know much going in. I decided early on it would be best to just go along for the ride with this steamy story – and what a crazy ride it was. There are beautiful, rich people behaving badly. They’ve lost their moral compass – assuming they every possessed one. There’s the selective memory loss theme that seemed so far-fetched but I was willing to get on board with because Kerry Lonsdale also made it appear kind of plausible. Last Summer was an addictive book that I read quickly and recommend if you like twisty, steamy and unbelievably crazy plots. Given the epilogue, I wonder if Ella’s story will continue.


About the author:

Kerry Lonsdale is the Wall Street Journal, Amazon Charts, and #1 Amazon Kindle bestselling author of the Everything series—Everything We Keep, Everything We Left Behind, and Everything We Give—as well as All the Breaking Waves. She resides in Northern California with her husband and two children. Learn more about Kerry at http://www.kerrylonsdale.com


 

False Step by Victoria Helen Stone

False Step by Victoria Helen Stone

Pub. Date:  July 1, 2019 – Lake Union Publishing

Review galley from the publisher, Little Bird Publicity, and NetGalley

Description:  Stay calm, keep smiling, and watch your step. In this marriage of secrets and lies, nothing is what it seems.

For days, all of Denver, Colorado, has worried over the fate of a missing child, little Tanner Holcomb. Then, a miracle: handsome, athletic Johnny Bradley finds him, frightened but unharmed, on a hiking trail miles from his wealthy family’s mountain home.

In a heartbeat, his rescuer goes from financially strapped fitness trainer to celebrated hero. The heat of the spotlight may prove too much for Johnny’s picture-perfect family, however. His wife, Veronica, despises the pressure of the sudden fame, afraid that secrets and bitter resentments of her marriage may come to light. And she’s willing to do anything to keep them hidden.

But when a shocking revelation exposes an even darker side to Tanner’s disappearance, Veronica realizes that nothing in her life can be trusted. And everything should be feared. (publisher)

My take:  Veronica has maintained the appearance of a happy family life but really she’s tired of the charade. She can’t reveal the truth because of the pain it would cause her daughter – the same pain she herself felt growing up in a home that lacked the security of loving parents. Veronica also has a secret she knows would devastate her daughter if discovered. When her husband becomes an instant celebrity after rescuing a lost child Veronica starts to notice things that just don’t seem right. Soon her life is running out of her control and she doesn’t know who to trust. Questionable decisions by Veronica lead her to a dramatic denouement that confirmed my early suspicions of what happened.  I was a little disappointed by that because I like being shocked or surprised by the “who done it” in a suspense novel. I might be in the minority in that regard. False Step is a very quick read making it a perfect beach book or a while away the afternoon on the front porch read.


About the author:

Victoria Helen Stone, formerly writing as USA Today bestselling novelist Victoria Dahl, now writes dark suspense from her home in Utah. Her novels include the bestselling and critically-acclaimed Jane Doe; Evelyn, After; and Half Past.


 

Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Published: May 21, 2019 – Lake Union Publishing

Review copy from the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description: Raymond Jaffe feels like he doesn’t belong. Not with his mother’s new family. Not as a weekend guest with his father and his father’s wife. Not at school, where he’s an outcast. After his best friend moves away, Raymond has only two real connections: to the feral cat he’s tamed and to a blind ninety-two-year-old woman in his building who’s introduced herself with a curious question: Have you seen Luis Velez?

Mildred Gutermann, a German Jew who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, has been alone since her caretaker disappeared. She turns to Raymond for help, and as he tries to track Luis down, a deep and unexpected friendship blossoms between the two.

Despondent at the loss of Luis, Mildred isolates herself further from a neighborhood devolving into bigotry and fear. Determined not to let her give up, Raymond helps her see that for every terrible act the world delivers, there is a mirror image of deep kindness, and Mildred helps Raymond see that there’s hope if you have someone to hold on to. (publisher)

My take:  On the day that seventeen-year-old Raymond’s closest (and only) friend moves to California he meets Mrs. Gutermann in the hallway of their New York apartment building. She’s in her nineties and is blind. She’s been waiting for the man who helps her with errands, etc. for several weeks. He doesn’t answer his phone and she’s worried. She asks anyone who passes her in the building if they’ve seen Luis Velez. One thing leads to another and Raymond finds himself on a quest to find out what happened to Luis. Along the way he’ll find a new friend or two – especially in Mrs. G.  I loved their relationship – how it grew and the impact it had on both of them. Truly special. They have things to learn from each other. On a larger scale I liked how the novel (and all of the books I’ve read by this author) makes the point that if people would act out of kindness and empathy the world would be a better place. I’m so glad I had the chance to read this book.

There are discussion questions included.


About the author:

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than thirty published and forthcoming books. An avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer, she has released her first book of photos, 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos from a Beautiful World. Her novel Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than twenty-three languages for distribution in more than thirty countries. Both Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow Book List, and Jumpstart the World was a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards. Where We Belong won two Rainbow Awards in 2013, and The Language of Hoofbeats won a Rainbow Award in 2015. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other journals and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories, California Shorts, and New York Times bestseller Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her stories have been honored in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and nominated for the O. Henry Award and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in Best American Short Stories. She is the founder and former president (2000–2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation and still serves on its board of directors. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, spoken at Cornell University twice, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton. For more information and book club questions, please visit the author at http://www.catherineryanhyde.com.


 

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

Lake Union Publishing – February 2019

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  While World War I rages on the European continent, young Emily Bryce is getting restless under the thumb of her over-protective parents in Devonshire. Her best friend Clarissa is serving as a nurse at the front while Emily has been kept at home visiting wounded officers at a local convalescent hospital. There she meets a young rough-around-the-edges Australian pilot and falls in love with him, much to her parents’ chagrin. What’s more, Emily decides to finally set off on her own and contribute to the war effort, becoming a member of the Women’s Land Army, a post her mother finds most unsuitable. (publisher)

My take:  Emily Bryce has led a sheltered life. When she turns 21 she’s determined to do more to help her country which is in the midst of WWI. She joins the Women’s Land Army and learns to work with her hands. She meets a vast array of women who will become more family than acquaintances.

There’s a character who, near the end of the novel, says “We’ve no idea what we can do until we try.”  For me, that was the underlying tone of the novel. It’s a story about people who rose to the occasion. I loved Emily’s spirit and felt her emotional highs and lows throughout the story. She possessed an admirable strength of character.

Rhys Bowen’s novel explores the personal losses experienced during the war, new paths to travel in life, and a bit of a mystery to be solved. I loved learning about the Women’s Land Army. The Victory Garden is a satisfying work of historical fiction that I’m happy to recommend to fans of the genre and Rhys Bowen.


About the author:

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of 40 mystery novels. Her work includes In Farleigh Field and The Tuscan Child, both standalone novels about World War II; the Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1900s New York City; the Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930s England; and the Constable Evans mysteries about a police constable in contemporary Wales. Rhys’s works have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and MacAvity awards, and In Farleigh Field was a 2018 Edgar Award nominee and Lefty Award winner. Rhys is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Connect with her at rhysbowen.com


Praise for Rhys Bowen:

“Rhys Bowen is one of the very best fiction writers of the day. With a deep understanding of the wounded human heart, and an uncanny ability to capture the quiet emotions and the grand scale of war, she rises above her contemporaries.”
Louise Penny, New York Times bestselling author


 

Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton

Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton

Lake Union Publishing:  August 1, 2018

Review copy courtesy of Lake Union and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  Key West, 1936. Headstrong, accomplished journalist Martha Gellhorn is confident with words but less so with men when she meets disheveled literary titan Ernest Hemingway in a dive bar. Their friendship—forged over writing, talk, and family dinners—flourishes into something undeniable in Madrid while they’re covering the Spanish Civil War.

Martha reveres him. The very married Hemingway is taken with Martha—her beauty, her ambition, and her fearless spirit. And as Hemingway tells her, the most powerful love stories are always set against the fury of war. The risks are so much greater. They’re made for each other.

With their romance unfolding as they travel the globe, Martha establishes herself as one of the world’s foremost war correspondents, and Hemingway begins the novel that will win him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Beautiful Exiles is a stirring story of lovers and rivals, of the breathless attraction to power and fame, and of one woman—ahead of her time—claiming her own identity from the wreckage of love. (publisher)

My take:  Meg Waite Clayton’s novel about the relationship of journalist Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway is obviously well-researched. In her author’s note she describes the books, articles, letters etc. used to flesh out events and characters.

The book begins in 1936 when Gellhorn meets Hemingway. Over the course of their relationship they travel a good part of the world, witnessing and reporting on remarkable events. The two carry more emotional baggage than most couples and continue to add to it over the years. I guess my sympathies are with Gellhorn but she was not totally without responsibility in the fate of their marriage. I really don’t care for Hemingway – at least the way he’s always been portrayed. He clearly had his demons and they were usually on the front burner. In the end, they lived amazing lives and made me wonder who our modern-day Gellhorn and Hemingway are.

I recommend Beautiful Exiles to fans of the genre and Meg Waite Clayton. The reason I enjoy historical fiction is I usually learn new things about people or events – that was the case in this book.


About the author:

Meg Waite Clayton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of five prior novels, including the Langum-Prize honored The Race for Paris and PEN/Bellwether Prize finalist The Language of Light. Entertainment Weekly named her novel The Wednesday Sisters one of the “25 Essential Best Friend Novels” of all time. Clayton has written for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Writer’s Digest, Runner’s World, and public radio. A graduate of the University of Michigan and its law school, she has lived around the country and now resides in Palo Alto.


 

Heaven Adjacent by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Review copy courtesy of Lake Union and Little Bird Publicity

Lake Union Publishing | June 19, 2018
Paperback: $14.95 | ISBN: 978-1503900394
eBook: $4.99 | ASIN: B076KYS66K

Description: Roseanna Chaldecott wants just one thing: peace and quiet. After the sudden loss of her lifelong best friend and law partner, Roseanna abandons her cushy yet unfulfilling life as a New York City lawyer and drives into the countryside without a firm destination in mind. As the car is just about out of gas, she stumbles upon the place she didn’t even know she was looking for: a tiny
house on a beautiful patch of green, tucked away in the hills, with a “For Sale” sign out front. Not a few hours later, Roseanna is the proud owner of this little slice of paradise and committed to a new
life away from the city.
But in HEAVEN ADJACENT (Lake Union Publishing; on sale June 19th, 2018), there’s a catch: Roseanna isn’t the only person enamored by her peaceful hideaway. On the first night in her new
abode she meets Patty and her five-year-old daughter Willa, who’ve been living on the property and can’t afford their own place. Soon others start traveling through, and as Roseanna explains why she exchanged her comfortable lifestyle for the simplicity of a shack in the woods, a few passersby become additional squatters interrupting her silence and solitude. Though she is adamant their days on the property are numbered, she reluctantly lets them stay.
Back in Manhattan, no one knows Roseanna’s whereabouts for months, not even her remaining ex-law partner, Jerry, or her estranged son, Lance. But after the New York Times runs an article about
Roseanna and the peculiar array of metal sculptures she’s created, Lance arrives to convince her to return home—and Jerry threatens her with a hefty lawsuit for abandoning the firm. As she comes to grips with the possibility of losing everything, Roseanna begins to ask herself what—and who—matters the most to her, and whether the isolation she yearned for is truly the cornerstone of her next chapter in life.
The author of more than 30 books, including the critically-acclaimed novel Pay It Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde presents readers with a middle-aged woman who still has a lot to learn about who she really is, and a cast of characters who chip away at the hard exterior she’s built up over the hectic life that’s passed her by. As Roseanna beings to accept a new reality free of material wealth, she discovers that she is rich in something that can’t be replaced: family. HEAVEN ADJACENT is a novel about realizing life is too short to put off happiness, and that shows the people we celebrate each day with should make us the most joyful of all. (publisher)

My take:  Roseanna’s approach to work was do it for as long as it took to ensure she could retire at some point and enjoy a comfortable life. When her best friend who held the same mindset suddenly died Roseanna made a change that bewildered her coworkers, family and even herself.

This is a story about resetting one’s priorities. Filled with quirky characters who were part of Roseanna’s new life this novel made me chuckle at times and it made me think about the possibilities that are always around us – but are we brave enough to consider making changes. I really enjoyed it. It’s the third of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novels I’ve read and, just like the previous ones, it left me with a warm feeling and very happy to have read it. Recommended.


About the author:

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 33 published books. Her bestselling 1999 novel, Pay It
Forward, was adapted into a major Warner Bros. motion picture, made the American Library
Association’s Best Books for Young Adults list, and has been translated into more than two dozen
languages in 30 countries. More than 50 of her short stories have been published in journals, and her short fiction received honorable mention in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, a second-place win for the Tobias Wolff Award, and nominations for Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have also been cited in Best American Short Stories.
Hyde is the founder and former president of the Pay It Forward Foundation.


 

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

  • Title:  The Tuscan Child
  • Author:  Rhys Bowen
  • Pages:  329
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  February 2018 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley; Little Bird Publicity

Description:  From New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen comes a haunting novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now… (publisher)

My take:  The Tuscan Child is the story of two families who never would have met if not for WWII. Lord Hugo Langley’s plane was shot down over a tiny town in Tuscany. He was eventually discovered by a young woman from the town, Sophia Bartoli.

The story unfolds in a dual-timeline told from the perspectives of Lord Hugo and his daughter Joanna. I thought that worked well in the development of the plot. I liked the story well enough but I didn’t feel connected to the characters until the last few chapters. That could all be on me though so don’t let that dissuade you from reading the book.

The descriptions of Tuscany and the food especially are lovely. The mystery involving Lord Hugo and Sophia was interesting and all seemed to be solved at the end. I think readers who like the era of WWII in Italy and a story of survival against all odds will find The Tuscan Child an interesting novel.


About the author:

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of over thirty mystery novels. Her work includes In Farleigh Field, a standalone novel of World War II; the Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1900s New York City; the Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930s England; and the Constable Evans mysteries about a police constable in contemporary Wales. Rhys’s works have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and MacAvity awards. Her books have been translated into many languages, and she has fans from around the world, including the 12,000 who visit her Facebook page daily. She is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Connect with her at rhysbowen.com.

Photo credit: John Quin-Harkin


Praise for Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field

“This well-crafted, thoroughly entertaining thriller from Agatha Award-winner Bowen follows the lives of three childhood friends…. Soon it’s a game of spy versus spy, and with every twist and turn, the reader is unsure whom to trust.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Instantly absorbing, suspenseful, romantic and stylish.”

—Lee Child, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

“Rhys Bowen is one of the very best fiction writers of the day. With a deep understanding of the wounded human heart and an uncanny ability to capture the quiet emotions and the grand scale of war, she rises above her contemporaries. This is magnificently written and a must read.”

—Louise Penny, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

The Royal Spyness Mysteries

“Wonderful characters…A delight.” —Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author

“This is a pitch-perfect book, which will charm you in one sentence, chill you in the next.” —Laura Lippman, winner of the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony and Agatha Awards

“Georgie’s high spirits and the author’s frothy prose are utterly captivating.” —The Denver Post

“The perfect fix between seasons for Downton Abbey addicts.”
—Deborah Crombie, New York Times bestselling author of The Sound of Broken Glass

“A smashing romp.” —Booklist

The Molly Murphy Mysteries

“Perceptive and poignant writing… make us look forward to Molly’s return.” —Chicago Tribune

“A charming combination of history, mystery and romance.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Well written and fast paced, with a twist that will leave readers truly surprised. This novel is not to be missed.”
―RT Book Reviews


Other Titles by Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field

Molly Murphy Mysteries

  • Murphy’s Law
  • Death of Riley
    For the Love of Mike
    In Like Flynn
    Oh Danny Boy
    In Dublin’s Fair City
  • Tell Me, Pretty Maiden
  • In a Gilded Cage
    The Last Illusion
  • Bless the Bride
    Hush Now, Don’t You Cry
  • The Family Way
    City of Darkness and Light
  • The Edge of Dreams
  • Away in a Manger
  • Time of Fog and Fire

Royal Spyness Mysteries

  • Her Royal Spyness
  • A Royal Pain
  • Royal Flush
  • Royal Blood
  • Naughty in Nice
  • The Twelve Clues of Christmas
  • Heirs and Graces
  • Queen of Hearts
  • Malice at the Palace
  • Crowned and Dangerous

Constable Evans Mysteries

  • Evans Above
  • Evan Help Us
  • Evanly Choirs
  • Evan and Elle
  • Evan Can Wait
  • Evans to Betsy
  • Evan Only Knows
  • Evan’s Gate
  • Evan Blessed
  • Evanly Bodies